by IISD's SDG Knowledge Hub,

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has developed a substitution and alternatives toolbox (SAAToolbox) for chemicals. The toolbox includes: an online portal, with information on tools and data sources; frameworks, guides, toolkits, and rating systems; non-hazard assessment tools; and substitution case studies.

The tools and data sources portal, which compiles information on online resources and software for undertaking assessments of chemical substitutions or alternatives, lists: tools for evaluating a chemical, material, process, product, and/or technology for attribute analysis with an assessment of alternatives; and data sources that contain information but no data manipulation mechanism for outside users. The tools and data sources address chemical hazard assessment and, sometimes, other comparative attributes.

Specific tools include:

  • The Column Model, developed by the Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (IFA) of the German Social Accident Insurance, enables industry to identify alternative substances. It also allows for a comparison of chemicals/substances or materials/mixtures based on hazard endpoints, such as exposure potential, acute and chronic health hazards, and physicochemical and process-related hazards, with the user making the final evaluation. While not intended for robust process change evaluations, the tool can be used to assess alternative chemicals/substances or materials/mixtures and minor process changes.
  • The Green Chemistry Assistant, used for chemical substitutions and process modifications, allows users to manipulate and assess chemical reactions.
  • PRIO, developed by the Swedish Chemical Inspectorate (KemI) to help eliminate high-hazard chemicals from products to meet the Swedish government’s goal of a “non-toxic environment” by 2020, contains a database of chemicals of high concern to human health and the environment, which are divided into “phase-out” or “priority risk reduction” chemicals.
  • The US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) OncoLogic 8.0 predicts the potential carcinogenicity of metals, polymers, fibers, and organic chemicals based on an analysis and compilation of cancer data on 1,500 chemicals. It also aims to provide data on chemicals for which little or no cancer data exists.
  • The Pollution Prevention Options Analysis System helps companies assess unforeseen consequences of current alternative technologies.
  • The German Federal Environmental Agency’s Guide on Sustainable Chemicals helps manufacturers, formulators, or end users of substances to prioritize sustainability in selecting substances and use of chemicals. 

Among the data sources, the toolbox lists:

  • CAMEO Chemicals, a database of hazardous chemicals with safety and exposure information for emergency responders and planners so they can make response recommendations and predict hazards, such as explosions, chemical fires, and results from chemical mixtures;
  • Chemical Entities of Biological Interest, a database focused on “small” chemical compounds with potential pharmacological properties;
  • ChemicALL, a database of hazardous chemicals used by members of the Swedish Chemicals Group in the electronics and textile industries;
  • ChemSec Marketplace, a business-to-business website where buyers and sellers of safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals can interact; and
  • ChemSec Textile Guide, which helps small and medium-sized textile companies manage the chemicals present in their processes and products.

Other data sources address: environmentally friendly cleaning products; pesticides; peer-reviewed chemical safety-related publications and database records from international bodies for public access; chemical toxicity information on aquatic life and terrestrial plants wildlife; hazardous chemicals commonly used in schools; and a collection of databases managed by the National Institutes of Health in the US that provides data and references for hundreds of thousands of potentially hazardous chemicals.

The chemical substitution tables detail frameworks and guides, toolkits, and product rating systems developed by various organizations in response to regulations of chemical substances and stakeholder interest to ensure alternatives evaluations are done in a consistent manner. The tables include:

  • frameworks and guides from academia, government, industry, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs);
  • toolkits or websites with information related to safer chemical substitutions and alternatives assessments, including from the European Chemicals Agency, the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Healthcare without Harm, and the French National Institute for Industrial Safety and Environment Protection, among others; and
  • product ratings systems, which include the Cradle to Cradle Certified Products Registry, GreenBlue, Healthy Buildings Network, and the US EPA’s Design for the Environment Branch.

The list of non-hazard assessment tools page provides information on tools that address life cycle, cost/benefit and availability, social impact, exposure assessment, materials management, performance evaluation, and other comparative attributes of interest in an alternatives assessment. 

The case studies of substitution and methodology describe alternatives assessments conducted by manufacturers, academic institutions, NGOs or government bodies. Other compilations of completed alternatives assessments include the SUBSPORTPLUS web portal, which describes case studies to support companies in fulfilling substitution requirements under EU legislation; and the Interstate Chemical Clearinghouse Alternatives Assessment Library.


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